The past half-decade has seen the rise of yet another movement within the relentless London music scene. In this case, it’s headed up by a loosely-defined group of artists whose work ranges somewhere between the steady rhythmicality of old-school hip hop and the melodious sounds of classic soul records, with dashes of mellow jazz and upbeat funk in places. At just 23 years old, Tom Misch has inarguably become – alongside artists such as Jordan Rakei or Loyle Carner – one of the most recognisable faces of this new wave, owing his success mainly to combining jazz and funk sound with ease whilst maintaining a pop-like quality that appeals to wider audiences.
The South London songwriter began his career uploading unpretentious J-Dilla-influenced beats on Soundcloud, and then gradually tweaking his musical style to conform to a wider sonic palette which incorporates both analogue and digital elements. Despite already having two beat tapes and an additional three extended plays under his belt, the idea of a full-length commercial release was little more than a faint hope until Misch finally announced the upcoming release of his debut album titled Geography, on April 6. Still underway, a lengthy tour has involved visits to several European cities, as well as an eventual return to his native England to play in Birmingham’s O2 Institute, where expectations were as high as the queues outside the venue were long.
He enters discreetly, spending little time in introducing himself to an already devoted crowd
His performance was preceded by that of fellow London singer Poppy Ajudha, whose set was composed mostly of her EP ‘Femme’ which looks at issues such as female empowerment encased within a powerful vocal style strongly reminiscent of Amy Winehouse. Her short concert was rounded off with a gracious, stripped-down rendition of Solange’s ‘Cranes in the Sky’, which did not fail to prepare the audience for the main act of the night. It takes Tom Misch another half hour to make an appearance onstage, and when this moment does finally arrive he enters discreetly, spending little time in introducing himself to an already devoted crowd. The performance that follows, however, is anything but cautious and he quickly lets his guitar monopolise the show.
The set is a deeper introspection of his already extensive discography: a clever alternation of more downbeat tracks with dancefloor-friendly material
He starts off boldly with his hit single ‘The Journey’, fuelling the public’s excitement as his fingers cruise over the fretboard of his guitar. Somewhat gloomier than its predecessor but equally well-received, synth-driven ‘Colours of Freedom’ makes a similar impression on the audience, and as the tracklist progresses it becomes evident that what the artist has in mind for the concert is not so much a showcase of his more recently discovered groove (embodied by tracks such as ‘Everybody Get Down’, which he performs with saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi). Rather, the set is a deeper introspection of his already extensive discography: a clever alternation of more downbeat tracks with dancefloor-friendly material, it too pays homage to lesser known tracks such as ‘Falafel’ or the jazz-infused ‘Follow’. Misch during the set even manages to find an appropriate juncture in which to cover Patrick Watson’s ‘Man Like You’, an interpretation superbly embellished by Tobie Tripp’s violin accompaniment.
Understandably though, it is the new material from Geography which fans more eagerly await. Aside from playing singles ‘Movie’, a nostalgic ballad about a long-lost love, and the bossa-nova-influenced ‘It Runs Through Me’, Tom debuts two new tracks: the aptly named ‘Tick Tock’, a guitar-dominated number which uses the ticking sound of a clock as a rhythmic basis, and the groovy ‘Disco Yes’ featuring the vocals of supporting act Poppy Ajudha, who briefly reappears onstage. In the closing stages of the concert, Misch revisits his more upbeat hits, such as ‘Crazy Dream’ or ‘South of the River’, and then ends on a gentle note with the melodic ‘Watch Me Dance’, after which the exhausted but visibly content musician thanks the audience for their support during what has been a vibrant show. Just as he arrived, he leaves without many words, though they are hardly needed in a concert in which his guitar did much of the talking.